Covering Their Bases

ifthisdoesntsaveiwillflipatable_emilybeam2North Dakota State co-head softball coach Darren Mueller usually carries a stoic demeanor, at least when media are around. Fellow co-head coach Jamie Trachsel typically follows suit.

But according to senior pitcher Krista Menke, that isn’t always the case.

“Darren is the jokester,” Menke said with a smile. “He goofs around with you a lot. And then Jamie brings a lot of the knowledge. They’re both just amazing together, and they compliment each other a lot.”

Mueller, who is in his 14th year in his position, has won more than 450 games during his tenure. On average, his teams have won 35 games each season.

This year’s Bison (32-7, 10-2 Summit League) haven’t skipped a beat or backed down from any team. NDSU has a 6-0 record against Big 10 teams.

“We’re beating a lot of the bigger schools, even more on a regular basis than we have in the past,” Mueller said. “This group is accepting that role a little bit more, too. We have to take the same type of approach that we have for conference play as we have when we’re up against Power Five conference teams: with the same intensity.”

When Trachsel moved up to co-head coach with Mueller, the Bison accrued a 137-83 record in her first four years. Trachsel has been a coach with the program since Mueller was named head coach.

“She’s well deserving of that position,” Mueller said. “We’ve worked really well together over the last 13 years. She’s definitely a head coach … We both want the same thing, and we have the same values. I think that’s something that really shows in our program.”

Both head coaches agreed they have to trust each other quite a bit, especially considering they split responsibilities rather than overseeing everything together.

Mueller’s focus resides the offense while Traschel is more of an in-game coach who specializes with the defense.

Though they were comfortable enough with switching those roles from last season.

Traschel also coaches from third base and calls pitches during games so Mueller can stay in the dugout and talk with the hitters about how the opponent is pitching.

“We have different personalities, and we react differently, so we’re really good complements to each other,” Traschel said. “Above everything and anything, no matter what happens we have the same values when it comes to our team, how we’re going to do things, what we want for the kids and what we want each and every season for each team.”

ifthisdoesntsaveiwillflipatable_emilybeaman-1While Mueller deals with administrative concerns, Trachsel’s most vital job – and maybe most stressful – is recruiting.

Trachsel said unlike other sports, softball does not have a recruiting calendar, so it’s basically a year-round recruiting season.

NDSU has been known for its recruiting ties with California, which has brought several solid players to the Bison program, but it’s no short trip to the golden state.

Traschel said most of her recruiting connections are with travel team coaches more so than high school. During these trips, it’s common for NDSU coaches to find other players while recruiting others.

Sometimes recruiting is planned. Sometimes it’s luck.

“We don’t necessarily have a home base, so we’re almost always traveling,” Traschel said. “With the West Coast, we’ve had a lot of success bringing kids in, so recruiting is busy for everybody, but it’s especially for us because we’re always on the road. We don’t really have free weekends to bring people in. We’re taking flights or driving for six or seven hours to go see kids. We share it, though; some of us have more responsibilities than others.”

Mueller and Traschel learned to read each other in a variety of situations, one of which includes the NCAA Tournament last season in which the Bison defeated No. 21 Auburn in the opening round.

“We adjust things here and there, but it really comes down to communication between us,” Mueller said. “Since we’ve worked together so closely all these years, we basically know what each other is thinking at any given time.”

Though the two coaches have different responsibilities and bring differing personalities to the job, catcher Alyssa Reina said she loves having the duo lead the team because they can cover plenty of coaching aspects together.

“They equal each other out very well, but they also have two different personalities,” Reina said, ” … they’re both so passionate about the game and their players. They care for us a lot. They’re both super knowledgable. I love the way they coach, and they make me want to be better.”

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